Distributed Mind

My Latest Trip to the Library

I made yet another exciting trip to the library, and I am very excited about my latest bounty.

I have now The New Testament : Its Background, Growth, and Content which turns out to be merely a very elementary introductory textbook, which was not what I was expecting. It isn't much use to me, though I note that it was rather readable and if I ever had to teach an elementary college or advanced high school class on the Bible I would probably consider it; it seems like it would make a decent one. On the other hand, I don't plan on teaching any such thing in the near future, so that does not help me much at this moment.

More useful is F. F. Bruce's The Canon of Scripture which is quite good based on what I have read so far. It sppears to have less citations than Metzger's treatment of the New Testament canon, which for a citation snob like me is a slight knock. It is also hard to read linearly: notes and footnotes frequently point at large sections to have to be read to understand the current spot - but then that is farily typical for a work of this sort (and one that Metzger's book shared). On the other hand, I found it to be quite readable, it covers the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, and it is very cheap (less than $20 for hardcover); I plan on buying it. It deserves far more attention than I have yet given it, so expect to hear more about it in the future.

In a similar vein I grabbed E. E. Ellis' The Making of the New Testament Documents (1999), which seems to be a sort of comprehensive, in depth look at the origins of the New Testament, more along the lines of what I was expecting to find in Metzger's book. This book seems more idiosyncratic than one would wish though. Ellis has several theories he is working through, and he seems to have some mostly unique assumptions. He gives the rather important document of I Clement a very early date in the late seventh decade - thirty years before the usually cited date! - and seems to think this is not controversial. I certainly don't know the history of the debate on the dating of I Clement, so for all I know this may be a perfectly reasonable position, but these sorts of early dates run through the whole thing. The result is that the whole thing comes across as very conservative, which makes some sense, since he is from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was interesting so far, though, but I am very curious about what sort of critical response it has received.

On a whim I planned on picking up Bart Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (1993). I haven't looked at it yet, but my impressions from reviews is that the title is a good indication of the content (not surprisingly... funny things those titles). But the opinion on these sorts of things is important to know. Some of it will be true, some I imagine will be exaggerated, but it will all be useful in its own way.

While I was looking for all these books, I saw by chance David Trobisch's book The First Edition of the New Testament (2000) which I had just read about, so I picked that up too. Trobisch's theory appears to be essentially that almost all New Testament texts we have today have their origin in a collection first published in the middle of the second century. He is not saying that the works are from that time - he does not concern himself with their original dates at all - but just that they all passed into a standard collection with consistent editing at a certain point. I am curious what the scholarly response to his book has been; I should track down some reviews. It does not sound entirely implausible, though it is a rather ambitious claim it seems to me (and it would appear his theory might leave more things unexplained than explained), but either way it should be useful. It is useful to consider any reasonable theory about the history of these texts it seems, if only so we know what sort of inferences one might be able to draw. (Or maybe it is just me who finds this interesting, but it is not really useful at all in fact, who knows?)

Finally, since I just read C. S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy" I got out two books related to that, namely The Lost Road by Tolkien which contains the short story of the same title which apparently came out the same conversation that read to Lewis writing Out of the Silent Planet and Discarded Image by Lewis on Medieval and Rennaisance art, some of the ideas of which figure in Perlandra, strangely enough. I was not able to get yet The World's Last Night: And Other Essays by Lewis which has his essay "Religion and Rocketry" or "Will We Lose God in Outer Space" (apparently it has gone under both titles). (On a related note, my confidence in Lews has so far been decreased by this first serious foray into his writing. Other reliable persons have found profit in him though, so for now I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I did not really care for the Space Trilogy much at all. Well, Out of the Silent Planet was not all that bad, and despite some serious flaws I rather liked it, but after reading the next two books, I had rather lost much of the taste for it. I may write more on this later.)

I also passed by, but did not get check out, several books reproducing certain manuscripts. I can't read Greek so it wouldn't do me any good anyway, and even if I could read Greek I would hardly be at the stage of my education where access to an unedited manuscript would be very useful, except as practice reading the original manuscripts, but then that was why I was mainly interested in them. Someday I hope to have such things on my bookshelf.

The conclusion is I have managed to find a wealth of extremely interesting reading material. This has also been a good reminder that I should be working on my Greek...

This does raise one question for me though: How do people survive without access to a university library? My advice to any young person who values their own education (or parent's who value their children's education) is to make sure they move to a city or town with a quality university library. And by quality I was thinking more like IU's than Valparaiso's, but at the very least one like Valparaiso's. Okay, now I may be speaking somewhat pretentiously. In all seriousness, though, I am reminded what an incredible place to live Bloomington is - thank God for it. I do add though, that sometimes the IU library is not the most convenient place to find books, namely some more popular works are better had from the public library or the bookstore. I find a combination of the the three sources to be indispensable.

posted at 08:20:10 on 12/20/05 by ben - Category: Religion

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